The beaches of Ko Chang Noi

The beaches of Ko Chang Noi

Very low-key

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Ko Chang Noi’s beaches are known more for laid-back vibes than idyllic scenes of water worthy of a snorkel.

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Ranging from tan to amber to charcoal grey, the sand is generally soft enough for bare feet and at most places it’s possible to swim no matter the tide. Staying calm in dry season, the water can be dark and murky or emerald and cloudy depending on weather. While no beach is crowded, some are more remote than others.

Serenity. : David Luekens.
Serenity. Photo: David Luekens

Ao Yai
Also known as Long Beach, Ao Yai (“Big Bay”) is the island’s main beach, spanning three kilometres of the west coast and broken into northern, central and southern sections by a canal and a rocky outcrop. A mix of beach pines, rubber, banyan and coconut trees back the tan sand, while patches of offshore rocks attract locals with fishing rods and travellers at sunset. We noticed some tidal garbage but it wasn’t too bad compared to a lot of islands. Many visitors are content to go their entire stay without leaving Ao Yai.

Ao Yai, as big as it is pretty. : David Luekens.
Ao Yai, as big as it is pretty. Photo: David Luekens

Those seeking ultimate peace and quiet should opt for a resort like Cashew or Sunset along North Ao Yai, which is the island’s longest contiguous stretch of sand. Hosting a couple of funky beach bars, the central stretch puts you within relatively easy walking distance of the village. A rocky border makes the southern strip feel more like a separate beach and here you’ll find some of the island’s comfiest accommodation at places like Sawasdee.

Sunsets are none too shabby. : David Luekens.
Sunsets are none too shabby. Photo: David Luekens

Ao Tadaeng
Ao Tadaeng is like Ao Yai’s little sibling, located a short walk further south through a rubber plantation. Though only a few hundred metres long, the blend of dark and light sand is wide enough for beach sports or lying out with some privacy. The atmosphere is extremely laid-back, with Suan Por and a few other tiny bungalow joints renting out cheap and basic rooms to travellers who like the sense of seclusion without straying too far from Ao Yai.

Ao Kai Tao
Accessed only by boat or a rugged kilometre-long hike south from Ao Tadaeng, Ao Kai Tao is a sandy cove that takes its name, meaning “Turtle Egg Bay,” from the sea turtles that we were told still nest here on occasion. It hosts only a ranger station and is part of the island’s national forest preserve.

Never too busy on Ao Lek. : David Luekens.
Never too busy on Ao Lek. Photo: David Luekens

Ao Siad
Down at the island’s far southern end and also reached only by boat or a long trek, Ao Siad hosts a pair of short beaches facing Ko Phayam with sand similar to Ao Tadaeng. Either end of the bay hosts a mellow bungalow joint: Tommy’s Garden to the west and Green Banana on the slightly longer eastern beach. In between you’ll find lots of flowers, hornbills, cashew trees and a freestanding eatery or two overlooking narrower patches of sand. Make your way down here if you really need to get away from it all.

Ao Lek
Beginning just north of Ao Siad alongside a trail running up to the village, Ao Lek, or “Little Bay”, rims roughly two kilometres of the far southeast coast but mangroves keep it from feeling like a single cohesive beach. Patches of coarse sand are found where the mangroves subside. There’s no places to stay here, though some derelict bungalows show that someone once gave it a go. We reckon you could camp in this remote area without being disturbed.

Explore the northwest coast. : David Luekens.
Explore the northwest coast. Photo: David Luekens

Far northern beaches
Four small sandy coves dot the island’s far northwest coast, backed by cashew trees and steep forested hills in the vicinity of the Navy camp. Wooded headlands shelter the amber-sand beach that fronts Hornbill Bungalows, while the slightly longer beach at Sea Eagle Bungalows is more exposed with a direct view to mountainous Burmese islands. Continue north from here to find an undeveloped beach up at the island’s far northern tip.

Reviewed by

David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.

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Exploring Ko Chang Noi on foot
Exploring Ko Chang Noi on foot

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